The First Season 1881-1882

The First Season 1881-1882

The premiere season of the Boston Symphony Orchestra featured twenty programs at Boston's Music Hall, presented on Saturday nights at 8PM, with a public rehearsal the preceding Friday afternoon at 2:30. It formed the backbone of the BSO subscription season that continues to this day. Ticket prices for the season were $10.00 or $5.00 depending on location, single concerts were either 75 cents or 25 cents. The Friday afternoon public rehearsals were 25 cents no reserved seating. Major Higginson also wanted the students of Harvard University to benefit from his new orchestra, and to that end he presented six concerts on Wednesday evenings at Sanders Theatre in Cambridge, beginning on December 7th, 1881. Tickets for the Cambridge season were $2.00 for Harvard students.

 

The First Season Programs Outlined below are the first 20 programs by the Boston Symphony Orchestra

 

I. October 22, 1881

Henschel opened each of his three seasons with Beethoven's Consecration of the House Overture. The Boston Symphony had quite a famous artist for the first soloist, contralto Annie Louise Cary was highly regarded in her day. She had appeared in opera houses from Russia to New York. Born in Wayne, Maine in 1842, she retired at the end of the 1882 season after marrying. The Haydn Symphony is No. 102. Henschel returned for the 50th season of the Boston Symphony in October 1930, substituting only the Wagner Meistersinger Prelude for the originally performed Weber Overture.

 

 

II. October 29, 1881

The Tragic Overture was indeed new, having been published earlier that year. It was repeated the following week. We should remember that Grieg at this time was 38. This program began the cycle of Beethoven Symphonies which concluded in the twentieth program with the Ninth. Henschel repeated the cycle in each of his three seasons. Note also that Beethoven was the only composer not alive at the time.

 

 

III. November 5, 1881

The first of six Music Hall appearances of Mrs. Lillian Henschel during the first three seasons. She would also be the soloist during the numerous tour programs before March of 1884. The Hymne au Créateur was the first of five works Henschel composed for use on the Boston Symphony programs. The Mozart Symphony is No. 40 in G minor, Kochel 550.

 

 

IV. November 12, 1881

The first evidence of a substitute soloist. Benjamin Johnson Lang was an important musician in Boston, but his first appearance would have to wait for the following season.

 

 

V. November 19, 1881

The Beethoven cycle continues with the Third Symphony. As typical with Henschel, he would present the major offering of the program at the end of the first half, the second half of the concert would be much lighter (with the soloist performing with piano) and shorter.

 

 

VI. November 26, 1881

Bernhard Listemann was the first concertmaster of the Boston Symphony. He also conducted a good deal during his career.

 

 

VII. December 3, 1881

The concert has the first item of music from the 17th Century, indeed this is the first program where all the composers listed are deceased at the date of the performance.

 

 

VIII. December 10, 1881

The concert closed an amazingly busy week for Georg Henschel. It started with a joint voice recital with his wife. Wednesday evening December 7, was the first-ever Boston Symphony concert at Sanders Theatre in Cambridge. And here is a long and difficult program that features the Brahms First Symphony. Waldemar Bargiel was Clara Schumann's half-brother. He had written the Adagio just the previous year.

 

 

IX. December 17, 1881

Though the 16th is the date commonly celebrated today, that date is far from certain. Beethoven was baptized on the 17th. The Chickering piano was the instrument of choice throughout the early years of the Boston Symphony.

 

 

X. December 31, 1881

The conductor as soloist. In all likelihood, Bernard Listemann conducted the Meistersinger excerpt.

 

 

XI. January 7, 1882

Continuing the Beethoven Symphony cycle with the 6th.

 

XII. January 14, 1882

The Symphony is the Schubert's Great C major Deutsch 944. Note that it closes the first half, the second half just containing the Lohengrin sample.

 

 

XIII. January 21, 1882

The conductor as soloist, this time as pianist.

 

 

XIV. January 28, 1882

Pianist Carl Baermann was a very active soloist in the BSO's early days. He would be soloist 12 times in the first 13 seasons, one season he appeared four times. The Mozart Symphony that closes is the Prague Symphony, now numbered as No. 38, Kochel 504.

 

 

XV. February 4, 1882

Mr. Preston was the pianist, Fanny Kellogg the soprano in the Mozart, singing Donna Anna's Crudele.

 

 

XVI. February 11, 1882

This is the American premiere of the Brahms Alto Rhapsody. Henschel wrote to Brahms from the Hotel Huntington on February 12: Mary How has a wonderful voice and sang magnificently. The men's chorus sounded wonderful in the uncannily quiet hall with 2500 people in it. I thought I was in heaven. Men could not hold back their tears and after the final note it was completely silent for a moment, before the people could recover and applaud. A thousand, thousand thanks, revered master!

 

 

XVII. February 18, 1882

As occurred with the Brahms Tragic Overture the previous fall, the Alto Rhapsody was repeated after the premiere on February 11th.

 

 

XVIII. February 25, 1882

The first Boston Symphony season presented both of the Brahms Symphonies that had been composed to date.

 

 

XIX. March 4, 1882

Along with the Nine Beethoven Symphonies that first season, Henschel and the Boston Symphony performed the Triple, and the 4th and 5th Piano Concertos, and the Egmont, Coriolan, the Consecration of the House and here, the Leonore No. 3 Overtures. The Schumann Symphony is usually listed with its moniker "Spring".

 

 

XX. March 11, 1882

Henschel's programs probably ran under two hours, with the exception of his closing concert of the season. John Knowles Paine was the first person to guest conduct the orchestra, though this was the second occasion, the first taking place at Sanders Theatre at Harvard University, March 1st, 1882.